The 1978 World Champion died Dec. 22nd.
The wonderful athlete, who pushed Nadia and popularized full-in on Floor and double back off beam, was paralysed in a training disaster before the 1980 Olympics.
Unlike the fluke accident suffered by Drew Donnellan, the paralysis of Mukhina was the subject of much conjecture. And even criticism of the coaches involved.
Sadness at Christmas Times….!
At the age of five years Elena lost both of her parents. She was raised by her grandmother, Anna Ivanovna. As a youngster she took an interest in gymnastics and figure skating. When an athletic scout visited her school, she eagerly volunteered to try out for gymnastics. …
Up until 1975, Elena Mukhina was an unremarkable gymnast, but after then, she teamed up with men’s coach Mikhail KLIMENKO and she transformed into one of the most show stopping gymnasts of her time: In 1976 she won the title of a Soviet junior all-around champion, but she did not qualify for the Olympic team (Montreal).
After winning three European titles at the continental championships in Prague (1977), she burst onto the scene at the 1978 World Championships in Strasbourg, France.
In one of the most stunning all-around performances in history, she won the gold medal, beating out Olympic Champions Nadia COMANECI and Nellie KIM among others. She also tied for the gold medal in the floor exercise event final, as well as winning the silver in balance beam and uneven bars.
She quickly established herself as an athlete to watch for at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.
In late 1979 Mukhina suffered a broken leg, which kept her out of the World Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, a competition in which the Soviet team suffered its first defeat at the hands of their archrivals from Romania.
After surgery Mukhina’s training continued despite her leg having not completely healed. When it was discovered that the fracture had not healed properly, Mukhina was rushed into surgery again. Because of her injury, she had great difficulty re-mastering a signature tumbling run, a Thomas salto (a 1 and 3/4 flip with 1 1/2 twists).
Two weeks before the Moscow Olympics, while practicing this exact move, she underrotated the salto, crash-landed on her chin, and her spine snapped. She was rendered a quadriplegic. …
Following the injury, the Soviet Gymnastics Federation remained secretive about the events surrounding Mukhina’s cataclysmic injury.
Elena herself was reclusive following the incident, seldom publicly discussing the accident.
In a rare interview with “Ogonyok MAGAZINE”, Elena spoke about the Soviet gymnastics program, criticizing it for deceiving the public about her injury, and for the system’s insatiable desire for gold medals and championships:
“…for our country, athletic successes and victories have always meant somewhat more than even simply the prestige of the nation. They embodied (and embody) the correctness of the political path we have chosen, the advantages of the system, and they are becoming a symbol of superiority. Hence the demand for victory – at any price. As for risk, well… We’ve always placed a high value on risk, and a human life was worth little in comparison with the prestige of the nation…”
What ever happened to Elena Mukhina
Elena Mukhina – Wikipedia